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No Borders Citizens, Iratxe: "I am grateful for the opportunity I had, I will always remember the people I have met"

I’ve always wanted to volunteer abroad, but it’s not always easy to find projects. That’s when I discovered the existence of the European Solidarity Corps, one of the easiest and best ways for youngsters to participate in a volunteering project in Europe. After several months of looking for projects, I found the project that best fitted what I wanted to do: social and cultural integration of asylum seekers, refugees and international students in the Entropia association, at the University of Calabria, Italy.  

Going alone to a new country where you don’t know anyone it’s not easy, but the people who work at the association and the volunteers made everything very easy. I felt welcomed and comfortable from the very first minute and Rende became my home really fast.

The first months were different from what I expected because due to covid restrictions we were not able to do many of the planned activities. However, we learned a lot of things about the ESC, we learned how a radio programme worked and we collaborated helping in the social room, we started Italian classes and we had the opportunity to meet people thanks to the language exchanges (tandem), which were essential for the improvement in the learning of the language. In addition, I had the opportunity to record a podcast with my project partner about the international protection system and the recognition process in Italy, Spain and Germany.

Ira

When we arrived in February, they were running the project "Solidarity Tour", written and coordinated by volunteers from the association in which they organised activities with the asylum seekers and refugees of the reception centre. This was definitely one of my favourite parts of my work in the association. Having the opportunity to work with refugees and asylum seekers and to help make their stay in Italy more pleasant and easier was very gratifying.

As the pandemic situation was improving and the restrictions were disappearing, we were able to reopen the association to students and start organising activities: babel tea, karaoke, movie nights, public viewings, jam sessions, Italian courses for refugees and international students, etc. In addition to organising and participating in the association's activities, we took care of its promotion by designing flyers with Illustrator and writing posts on social media.

The project had a duration of 6 months, but the experience was so good and so enriching that we asked to stay for the second part of the project, as due to covid restrictions we had not been able to carry out some of the activities that were part of our project. In the end I was able to enjoy being there for 10 months and it was the best decision.

In the second part of the project, we continued with the daily activities of the association such as the front office and promotion and organisation of activities. We started the preparation of the two projects that were going to take place in September. The first one was a youth exchange on radio in which I took part as a participant. The second was a short-term ESC project on the preparation of a multicultural festival, in which I helped with the selection of candidates, organisation of activities, implementation of the festival and its subsequent evaluation.

One of the biggest challenges for me was being the speaker for the NoBorders Radio broadcast. Even though I had been learning Italian for several months, I wasn't fluent enough to do a radio show. I am grateful for the opportunity I had. I learned a lot about radio and it helped me to overcome my fears about public speaking, as well as helping me to improve my Italian.

But not everything was about working, we were in Calabria and we had to take advantage of that opportunity. As the good weather arrived and the restrictions disappeared, we were able to start travelling around the region. Calabria is not a known place, but it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to and the people have always been friendly and helpful to us.

All in all, thanks to this experience I had the opportunity to learn things that I wouldn't have been able to learn otherwise: running a radio broadcast, picture and video editing tools, social media promotion, youth work, activity organisation and implementation, etc. But of the whole experience, I will always remember the people I have met who have made my experience in Italy unforgettable.

Iratxe De Huerta Gozalo - European Solidarity Corps Volunteer